One of Twitter’s biggest problems is spam. So yesterday, Twitter introduced a new feature to help combat spammers using the power of the community, it hopes. (The post on its support forum describes several types of spam.)
The new process to report a spammer is simple enough. Under the right hand menu “Actions” you can click the link to report the spammer’s profile or you can use the drop-down menu.
A bit late IMHO but good stuff. Way to go Twitter. Trouble is, it won’t work. It may frustrate the efforts of casual spammers, but chronic and professional spammers will not be deterred. I see at least five reasons.
- It’s so easy to create an account on Twitter –– It’s ironic that one reason Twitter is so successful is that practically anyone with a brain (and an email account) can set up a Twitter profile. Yes, you need a unique email address, but a spammer can create new email addresses ad nauseum for free with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and so on. So when Twitter closes a profile, the spammer will just set up another one. Twitter will be playing whack-a-mole.
- Many users do not use the Twitter interface — Again, it’s ironic that Twitter’s API has fueled the proliferation of countless 3rd party apps that enable people to post to their feed without visiting their Twitter page. To report a spammer, a user would have to open their Twitter home page, find the offending Tweet, click on the user’s profile link and then report. Too much!
- User wars and spammer counter-attack-– If you decide you don’t like a user, hey why not just report them for spam? And no doubt since it’s so easy to report someone, spammers will counter-attack, reporting everyone just to jam the system. So how many unwarranted reports will Twitter receive? What kinds of resources will be needed to screen all the reports? Chances are the system will be overwhelmed.
- Already shaky review process —Just last week, ZDNet reported that Twitter banned an internet security researcher for warning followers about a MySpace phishing site. The incident points to a host of problems related to Twitter’s process for reviewing and banning accounts.
- Credibility gap — Is Twitter really serious about fighting spam? In her blog, Ariel Waldman describes her experience in which Twitter refused to uphold its Terms of Service related to personal attacks and harrassment. (Although her case did get a personal response from Biz Stone on GetSatisfaction.)
Maybe Twitter’s anti-spam measure is just about appearances. If that perception spreads, authentic users will be deterred from reporting, negating the entire premise of the system. So Twitter gets an A for their effort to thwart spammers, but a failwhale for execution.